Day 29: Both/And
Excerpts from Acts 2
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (1-3)
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. (5-6)
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (12)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (38-39)
In my message today I am borrowing concepts from theologians, Richard Rohr and N. T. Wright. These men posit that most readers of Paul miss his major theme—namely that the “supreme idea of Paul is that the new temple of God is the human person.” (Rohr’s Daily Meditation, May 14, 2017) Both of these theologians believe that the old dualistic fight among Christians rests on the battle between Luther’s “‘justification by faith,’ (Protestants) versus ‘works righteousness’ (Catholics.)”
N.T. Wright traces historically how the temple, built around 950 BC, was destroyed in 587 BC. He says this “prompted a crisis of faith. The temple was where God lived.” So in 515 BC, they rebuilt the temple, but unlike the first temple which was “filled with fire and cloud from heaven,” (1 Kings 8.10-13), the second temple has no record of “the fire and glory of God ever descending.” (Rohr, 5-14-17) Wright reminds us Jesus grew up in that Second Temple. He also argues that without the “fire and glory of God ever descending” the people began embracing what the Pharisees perpetuated: “absolute ritual, priesthood, and Sabbath purity—[so] the Glory of God would return to the Temple.” Rohr sees this pattern of either/or thinking among Christians today. He says people wonder, “Are we really God’s favorite and chosen people.” However, the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost descended “not on a building, but on people!” (Acts 2.38-41) (Rohr, 5-14-17)
Rohr reminds us that in the early church, Christianity “began as a universal rather than tribal or regional religion, which was why they very soon called themselves ‘catholic.’” In both Corinthians and Ephesians, Paul loved to say, “You are the Temple.” During Lent we talked about everyone being made in the image of God. So this week, as we continue to celebrate being Easter people, can we begin to hold in our hearts the fact that each human body is created to serve God? So rather than ask who is in or out—can we understand that no one is outside of God’s care?
Prayer Recap: Dear Lord, You created us in Your image. Help us to see Your reflection, no matter how dim, in everyone. Help us avoid the comfort of self-selecting only those who look and act as we do. Open our hearts and minds to Your grace. Amen.